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Westward’s Big Boatyard Adventure

a wooden boat

Westward’s Big Boatyard Adventure
Part I

There comes in the life of every antique boat owner a moment of reckoning. The moment typically arrives when we have lifted our treasured vessel onto the work area of a boat yard with the intention of replacing that one fastening, plank or window frame that represents the final step in making the object of our affection perfect and finally finished.

We have a sense that something isn’t right when the fastening in question withdraws quickly and easily, or the plank that has never seemed to lie flush with its neighbors is actually in good condition. A voice, coming from the general region of our checkbook, emits a quiet “ah oh”, and then the shipwright removes the plank and exposes that which cannot be. He reaches into the cavity of the frame bay, and produces a handful of what may be frame, blocking or keelson, but looks more like orchid potting mix than it does the solid “replaced less than ten years ago” critical boat part that you had expected to see.
There is a moment, a long moment, of increasing comprehension at the import of this handful of rotten boat. As my brain spirals through the optional scenarios I now confront, a panic born of fear, anger and looming poverty begins to cloud my thinking.

Fear that this much damage will be far beyond my capacity to have corrected, that a famous and loved classic vessel will be destroyed on my watch. Fear that even if the money can be borrowed, that the cost to service the debt will be unsustainable within my always struggling balance sheet, and that the added debt will forever end the chance of retirement while I’m still able to feed myself and make it to the head unaided. Anger directed toward the shipwrights who did the work all too short a time before. Anger that within 3 years of ownership I will have had to buy the boat twice.

This is when it is best to remove myself from the vicinity of sharp objects and the shipwright (who just found a new pickup truck and a winter vacation hidden amid the rotten timbers of my fine vessel) and take a walk around the boatyard. As I pass glistening yachts whose six-figure  paint and varnish jobs mock me, and the broken and abandoned hulks whose owners lacked the mental strength or financial depth to cure their fungal illness, I wonder if I will ever again feel the wheel of my own suffering beauty kick as I cross an eddy line. I face having to accept that my budget, schedule and plans for the next year have just been replaced by a short list of new critical needs; how much will it cost and how long it will take.